courtesy of Erick Stutz
One Tribe — One Headdress
One of our first school-wide lessons this year was to watch a video that is about tolerance for everyone, with John Cena as the star. Throughout the video, Cena asks you to picture the ‘average American,’ but you really can’t, because America is a melting pot of different ethnicity and cultures. “Almost half the country belongs to minority groups and what’s more American than the freedom to celebrate the things that makes us us?” said Cena.
If our school wants to promote this message of love for every American and this message of having the freedom to celebrate all races, why aren’t we allowed to show our love for Native Americans?
A tradition our student section has carried along for decades has come to an abrupt halt.
Something being a tradition or having geographical history doesn’t always make it right, I recognize that. The Native American headdress that is worn in the student section of our football and basketball games was banned. The reasons we should keep the headdress in our student section are not because it has been a tradition for years or because it is ‘cool’ for our chief to wear it. We should keep the headdress with the chief of our student body because we wear it with pride, respect and honor; we recognize the heritage of our school and community; and we want to accept all cultures.
Linganore High School was founded in 1962 to educate the eastern side of Frederick County. Although not much is known about our the Native American heritage of our area, Lake Linganore Association promotes the idea that “‘Linganore’ gets its name after an Indian chief that once lived on Linganore Creek.” The tale is that Chief Linganore lost his left ear on the battlefield and German settlers often spoke of him as, ‘linke’ (left) ‘ohr’ (ear) and that he was a member of the Susquehanna Indian tribe.
For years ‘The Tribe’ at Linganore High School has been a staple at football games, other sporting events and throughout the school as a whole. Currently it is a group of eleven male seniors who lead the student section. One of the members of the tribe is elected through a Twitter poll to lead as the “Chief”. This student is honored to wear the headdress during games, to symbolize his leadership of the LHS fan section. The 2017-2018 school year’s chief is Jacob Garwood.
Some may argue that the wearing of the headdress by someone who is not of Native American culture is cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is, “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”
I argue that it is cultural blending or cultural reference. Any society open to cultural blending is a society that is open to new ways and is willing to accept all cultures.
Native Americans are real people, not just traditions and rituals. We need to acknowledge that.
The school administration sent out an a letter to all students and their families, announcing there will be the “creation of a new ‘Linganore Heritage PTSA Chair’ position that will lead a Heritage Committee. This committee is tasked with working collaboratively with the PTSA, Student Government Association, Linganore Alumni Association, various Linganore Boosters, School Administration, and, if possible, local Native American community leaders to create and implement an ongoing program that will honor the traditions of Linganore High School, while remaining respectful to the Native American cultures we also seek to honor. This committee will also be charged with strengthening the Linganore Lancer identity while collaboratively seeking, developing, and implementing creative solutions to ensure the Lancer Legacy continues.”
Thanks to this decision, the students will now be able to understand and respect the culture; therefore, it would not be cultural appropriation for the chief to wear the headdress; it would be part of the school-wide effort to appreciate Native American culture.
Native Americans are not just ‘history’ lessons. There are issues that many Native Americans struggle with today.
We call the LHS community “one tribe” because we want our school and everyone in it to be as tightly-knit as the Native American tribes are reputed to be.
Alumna Nicole Palmer, Class of 2013, said, “Every year we all looked forward to see who was honored enough to be able to wear the headdress at games and pep-rallies. It is what we grew up on.”
In Native American tribes the Chief of the tribe often is depicted wearing a headdress. There are many different types of headdresses. Feathers on each headdress are earned by acts of bravery or acts of honor.
Although the headdress was banned, that has not stopped the students, the alumni and even some parents from fighting for it to be brought back. In 2013, [then principal of LHS] David Kehne asked students if they knew what the headdress signified in Native American culture and how they felt when they wore it. According to Noah Ismael’s article in The Lance in 2013, “some of the kids who had just been wearing it for fun, quickly realized… they needed to be even better than the average citizen when [they] wore that.”
I believe that the chiefs, over the years, have tried to be role models. “When wearing the headdress, it gives me the greatest feelings of school pride and spirit,” said Garwood.
Last year’s Tribe chief, Harry Rassmussen said wearing the headdress at games was “an honor.”
“The chief is someone we all look up to. Not only the students elect the chief but parents and people in the community vote as well. We see that chosen student as the leader of our school, just like the chief of a Native American tribe,” said 2017-2018 tribe member Erick Stutz.
A website run by artists in Bali, Indonesia, selling hand-crafted headdresses (for ANY person to wear) reported, “wearing a chief headdress can be a celebration of the glorious past. It can bring the wearer closer to nature and bring a kind of other-worldly peace. It could even educate others into finding out more about the history of the objects which are being worn.” While this is not an ‘official’ Native American position, it speaks worlds.
Our students, the LHS alumni, the parents and the rest of our community deserve a chance to prove that we love, respect and honor the wearing of the headdress. It isn’t just an object. It isn’t just ‘tradition’. It is pride, it is strength, it is Linganore.